While index-option traders conduct their usual expiration jockeying, there's one big-name stock experiencing pressure from an enormous amount of options interest.
. The problem: open interest. From the Dell options crowd at the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange
, word was that the big money players in the pits were responding to options-trading patterns and trying to determine where the boxmaker's shares may land. "The thing could get pinned at 40, or the market could rise 200 and it could pop," said one floor trader. "Either way, there's a lot of pressure coming from the open interest."
Traders, in fact, are expecting a busy expiration for tech stocks based on the historically high levels of recent action in the
futures. Other index action, traders said, was indicating a slightly bullish tilt heading into the second half of trading today.
Back in downtown Manhattan,
senior options strategist Michael Schwartz took a break from rehearsing for tomorrow's mandatory triple-witching appearance on
to chat about Dell.
"If it goes down to the wire and positions are not rolled, the impact may not be that great," he said. "But if the stock trades through another stock price, sell orders coming from the exercise of the options may materialize on Monday."
That could be key if enough of the call-buyers exercise and take on the stock positions. Because Dell attracts so much retail investor traffic, those call-buyers may not have the money to exercise, so they may simply close out the positions. As a result, market makers may end up buying back the contracts, exercising them and selling the shares to offset other in-the-money positions.
"The option overhang could have an impact," said Tom Burnett, the senior trading adviser at
Wall St. Access
. "But it could work both ways. It's difficult to figure out where it will land."
Dell's March open interest was deepest in the March 45 and 50 calls, contracts quickly becoming quaint afterthoughts as the stock bounced around 42 at midday. The March 45 calls have more than 62,000 contracts outstanding, and the March 50 open interest stood at more than 55,000.
Their premium was rapidly eroding. "Those things are no bid-a-teenie," the floor trader said, describing how much air had come out of the prices.
Dell, which typically owns at least a few of the top-10 volume spots, wasn't having a busy day today. There was some rolling forward of March contracts into the April expiration month. The March 45 calls traded almost 5,000 contracts by midday, but most of that likely was players closing out positions or buyers taking lottery-ticket chances on a pop in the stock on expiration Friday.
Action at the 40 strike price in the March options was a little heavier because of the current in-the-money status of its options. The March 40 calls traded almost 1,400 contracts from 2 1/16 ($206.25) to 2 3/4 ($275).